Family, friends remember Plymouth soldier Benjamin Sherman

Dennis Tatz

When Benjamin Sherman returned to Plymouth South High School to visit former teachers and friends, he wore his Army paratrooper uniform.

“He spoke to kids in a class about how school was important,” Plymouth South Principal Patricia Connors said Wednesday. “He was always looking to give back.”

Connors said she wasn’t surprised to learn that the 21-year-old father-to-be had died trying to save another soldier when he jumped into a river in Afghanistan.

“I can see him going above and beyond,” she said.

The body of Sherman, a 2006 Plymouth South graduate, was found Tuesday, according to his family. Authorities are still looking for the remains of the other Army paratrooper, who has yet to be identified. The soldiers had been missing for about a week.

The two, who were members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, had disappeared in Badghis province, a remote area that borders Turkmenistan. Local police said the men tried to recover supplies when the river swept them away.

Sherman, an Army specialist, is the second Plymouth South graduate to die in the Middle East. Marine Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Burgess, a 2001 graduate, was killed in Iraq five years ago during an attack on his convoy.

The vice principal at Plymouth South, Mark Fornaciari, said he would think of Sherman when he was talking to other students about striving for success in life.

“When I saw him in his uniform it made me feel very good about what he had done,” Fornaciari, “I would always say, ‘Thanks for protecting me, Ben.’”

Sherman played tackle on offense and defense during one football season in high school. Panthers coach Scott Fry said Sherman didn’t join the team until his junior year.

“It’s not easy for a kid to come in and play like he did, but he worked well with others,” Fry said. “I think it carried on in the military. He could be a good leader as well as a follower. He drew a lot of the kids closer to him, and he became a very good teammate.”

Fry said Sherman gave up football to concentrate on his studies and other things that were going on in his life.

“I remember that when he returned to the school he was proud of being in uniform and proud of what the military stood for,” Fry said.

Sherman’s mother, Denise Sherman, said outside the family’s Plymouth home that she hoped the nation would come together in prayer.

“First, we’d like to say, Benjamin, you are our hero,” she said.

Sherman’s sister, Meredith, stood next to her mother and shared her thoughts about her brother.

“I know that day he jumped into the river to try to save his comrade ... he didn’t just see another soldier in the water, but because he saw his brother,” she said. “He didn’t jump in because he was trained to, but because his heart told him to.”

Sherman and his wife, Patricia, were childhood sweethearts. The couple, who wed last year, were expecting their first child in a few months.

State Senate president Therese Murray, who lives in Plymouth, said Sherman’s death was a reminder of the sacrifices soldiers and their families are making in the defense of freedom as Americans celebrate Veterans Day.

“It’s a tragedy, and my heart goes out to his family,” Murray said. “I’m sure his family is proud of him, and I hope they find solace in knowing he served his country for the greater good.”

Gov. Deval Patrick, who was at the Morrisette American Legion Post in Quincy on Wednesday to sign a military benefits bill, said he only learned about Sherman’s death at the conclusion of the Veterans Day ceremony earlier at the State House.

“My heart and my prayers go out to his family,” the governor said. “We will obviously follow the news of when the services are and do our very best to be there, as I have for all the funerals of fallen soldiers and sailors and other servicemen and women, to honor their service and to support the family.”

Patriot Ledger writer Dennis Tatz may be reached atdtatz@ledger.com.